Recap: Tintin The Broken Ear

The Broken Ear begins with a bizarre robbery. A fetish created by the South American Arumbaya tribe is stolen from the Museum of Ethnography, only to be returned the following day - apparently stolen only as a prank. Tintin realises the 'returned' fetish is a fake and quickly discovers that a local sculptor who specialised in making primitive art has died under odd circumstances. Rightly believing the theft and the sculptor's death to be linked Tintin begins his investigation.

Having had a run in with the crooks Ramon and Alonso (also on the elusive trail of the real fetish) Tintin takes ship for the troubled South American republic of San Theodoros where he ends up caught up in a revolution and the intrigues that follow. Ending up close to the Arumbayas' territory, he decides to visit them in the hope of finding out why the fetish was worth stealing. Unfortunately Ramon and Alonso are still after the fetish and are fully willing to kill to lay their hands on it.

The Broken Ear introduced General Alcazar, later an important reccurring character and ally of Tintin. With San Theodoros (and its neighbour Nuevo-Rico) Hergé also created the first of his fictional countries and languages - in the original French edition the Arumbayas speak a language based on Marollien (a Flemish dialect spoken in the regio of Brussels) and in the English translation they are speaking phonetic Cockney English!


Tropes

  • Absent-Minded Professor: A prototype of professor Calculus appears, so absent-minded that he carries his walking stick against the rain instead of an umbrella. When the parrot talks to him he apologizes and says: I'm sorry, I thought you were a parrot.
  • Arch-Enemy: The Arumbayas are friendly and civilized folks, but they have a long-running feud with the Rumbabas, another native tribe who are savage killers.
  • Banana Republic: San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico. (When Alcazar makes the drunk Tintin a colonel, Diaz points out that they have far more colonels than they have corporals! This gets him demoted to corporal.)
  • Berserk Button: When Tintin is saved by the revolutionaries, General Alcazar makes him a colonel in his revolutionary army. When his aide-de-camp Colonel Diaz points out that they already have thousands of colonels but less than a hundred corporals and suggests that Tintin be made a corporal instead, Alcazar explodes. He immediately declares Tintin his new aide-de-camp and demotes Diaz to the rank of corporal.
    • Later subverted when Tintin is fulfilling one of his duties as aide-de-camp, namely playing chess with the General. When Tintin checkmates Alcazar, the general explodes again and shoots at Tintin. Tintin thinks he's going to die, but then Alcazar laughs at his macabre joke, pointing out that the bullets in his gun were blanks.
  • Blow Gun: The Arumbayas use blow guns with poison arrows.
  • Bowdlerize: In the Nelvana animated adaptation, the fetish is referred to as an idol, due to fetish having a VERY different meaning.
  • Chew Toy: Corporal Diaz.
  • Composite Character: The Nelvana adaptation combines the characters of Rodrigo Tortilla and Lopez. Rodrigo Lopez not only steals the Heart of the Jungle and hides it in the idol, but he is also the one to steal it from the museum.
  • Creator Provincialism: The Amazonian Indians speaks a heavily distorted, but still recognizable version of the Marol dialect, spoken by Flemish people in Brussels. Hergé's mother was Flemish and he remembered her speaking it when he was little.
  • Darker and Edgier: Even ignoring the revolution and the war The Broken Ear probably has the highest 'onscreen' bodycount in the series the sculptor Balthazar (killed by Tortilla), Tortilla (drowned by Alonzo and Ramon), Corporal Diaz (killed by his own bomb) and Alonzo and Ramon (drowned.) Additionally while the story probably has more gags than the previous adventure the comedy tends towards the dark (see Shot at Dawn below).
    • After Alonzo and Ramon die, it shows them in Hell!
  • Deus ex Machina: Perhaps literally this time: Just when Alonzo is about to shoot a tied up Tintin the house they're in is struck by lightning that sends Tintin flying out of the house!
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Alonso and Ramon after being drowned are seeing dragged by demons presumably to hell. One of the few surreal events in the series. It may count as an Early Installment Weirdness.
  • Fictional Country: San Theodoros and Nuevo Rico.
  • The Generalissimo: General Alcazar and Tapioca.
  • George Lucas Altered Version: As with most Tintin albums from the 1930s this one too was redrawn and colored in. Most of the story remained intact, save for a scene where Tintin has a Nightmare Sequence in which an Amazonian Indian blows a poison dart at him while sleeping. The scene was perhaps to reminscent to a similar nightmare sequence in The Seven Crystal Balls.
  • The Ghost: General Tapioca and Tortilla. Subverted by Lopez in the Nelvana cartoon, who does not appear on-panel in the book but appears during a flashback in the adaptation.
  • Going Native: Why Ridgewell stayed in the jungle.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Both Colonel/Corporal Diaz and Alonso have Bald of Evil and Alonso has a Beard of Evil too. On the good side the English explorer Ridgewell has a long white, bushy beard.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: The crook Ramon is a chain smoker of cigarettes.
  • Heel-Face Turn: Pablo
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Corporal Diaz.
  • Ironic Echo Cut: Once war is declared, the American oil man exults that they've beaten their British rival. The next panel has the British oil company representative happy that they can now get their hands on the San Theodoros oilfields, thus beating the Americans.
  • Karma Houdini: The odious oil man Trickler and arms manufacturer Bazarov who between them cook up a war.
  • Kudzu Plot: The trail of the fetish and who did what is rather tricky to follow. One critical point isn't explained at all, something Tintin directly lampshades.
  • Living MacGuffin: Balthazar's parrot.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Tintin is about to be shot by fire squad when it turns out the weapons have been sabotaged. While they are being fixed the officer offers him to have a drink. They both get drunk as a result and when Tintin is brought back to the fire squad the officer didn't even bother to tie him up. While Tintin is trying to remain on his feet he starts to sing Viva Alcazar, just when a counter revolution by Alcazar troops invades. He is immediately declared a courageous hero for singing his loyalty to Alcazar while standing in front of a fire squad.
  • Name and Name: Alonso and Ramón.
  • National Stereotypes: San Theodoros, though not a real South American country, is shown as a place where revolutions and counter revolutions occur in rapid fashion. The Amazonian Indians are naïve childish people who use blow guns and shrunken head techniques. Mr. Goldbarr is a cigar smoking American billionaire.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Basil Bazarov, the arms dealer, is an allusion on real-life arms dealer Basil Zaharoff.
  • Not So Dire: Tintin and General Alcazar appear to be planning strategy, but they're actually playing chess.
  • Posthumous Character: Lopez and Captain Walker die long before the story takes place.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: The animated version removes the character of Ramon Tortilla from the story and has Lopez be not only the one to steal the fetish from the Arumbayas, but also to tell Ramon and Alonzo about it. This makes the story a little easier to follow. The subplots involving Colonel Diaz, the war between San Theodoros and Nuevo Rico and the Rumbabas are also dropped.
  • Punny Name: 'Korrupt Arms'. The Gran Chapo War is a pun on the Gran Chaco War (1932-1935) between Bolivia and Paraguay over the oil fields in the Gran Chaco region and the French word grand chapeau (big hat). The name Nuevo Rico is a pun on nouveau riche and its capital Sanfacion on sans façon (without manners).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The war between San Theodoros and Nuevo-Rico was based on the then very recent Gran Chaco War, which was indeed engineered by oil and arms companies on the promise of oil that turned out to be nonexistent.
  • Running Gag: Ramon always throws his knifes too far to the right.
  • Shot at Dawn: Hilariously played with - Tintin is framed as a revolutionary and sentenced to death by firing squad, only to be saved when an officer rushes in with news that General Tapioca has been overthrown and Tintin can thus go free. As he is being untied another officer rushes in with news that Tapioca has defeated the revolution so Tintin will have to face the firing squad after all. Fortunately their rifles have been sabotaged and by the time they have been fixed the revolutionaries really have won.
  • Shout-Out: A comic strip album by Cowboy Henk was named Het Geroken Oor (The Smelt Ear, which is a pun on the Dutch title of this Tintin album Het Gebroken Oor.)
  • Shown Their Work: All the statues and art work seen in the museum are based on genuine art work found in the Brussels' Royal Museum of Art and History.
  • Shrunken Head: A native Amazonian Indian tribe wants to practice this technique on Tintin and Ridgewell.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Tintin spares Pablo's life and thus he comes to rescue him from prison, though he will betray Tintin in Tintin and the Picaros. Also, arms dealer Basil Zaharoff is seen selling arms to both General Alcazar and immediately afterwards to his rival in the opposing country.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: As mentioned under Darker and Edgier, the book ends with Alonzo and Ramon falling into the sea, drowning, and being dragged to hell by black devils with pitchforks. In the famous 1990s animated series, Tintin manages to grab them and save them from drowning, sending them to prison instead.
  • Those Two Badguys: Alonzo and Ramon.
  • Unknown Rival: Corporal Diaz begins a vendetta against Tintin and Alcazar, and not only does he do more harm to himself than to them, but half the time they don't even notice his attempts on their lives. In a moment of Dramatic Irony, he dies just as Alcazar decides to restore him to colonel.
  • Ventriloquism: Ridgewell saves him and Tintin out of a sticky situation by using this technique.
  • War for Fun and Profit / You Can't Make an Omelette...
  • We ARE Struggling Together: Alonzo and Ramon drown at the end because they don't realise Tintin has escaped and each is trying to drown the other, thinking he's Tintin.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It's unclear how Tortilla learned about Lopez and the fetish in the first place, something Tintin lampshades.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Tintin is rather confused as to how he became a colonel, having been too drunk to remember the events of the previous day.
  • Wrongly Accused: The Arumbayas are considered by outsiders to be savage killers, but this is likely due to people confusing them with their rivals the Rumbabas, who more than live up to the stereotype.